I have often heard commercial pilots define the act of flying as spending long hours of boredom punctuated occasionally by moments of sheer terror. Not unlike, although to a lesser degree, winter management of the birds.
Things go exceedingly well right up until the time that they don’t, and in this business when things are going well, look out, for it is then that the light at the end of the tunnel morphs into a train coming the other way.
Life in the marsh was progressing smoothly, accompanied by the predictability so essential to the illusion of control, when in less time than it takes a house cat to pounce upon a ball of string, our luck ran out.
We failed, finally, to dodge the bullet. #6 was gone, and with her went any confidence we may have had that the fates were on our side.
Then a week later, the four remaining chicks unexpectedly took off and went AWOL from the area for a day and night. #5 and 7 returned the following morning but without #4 and 11. What followed was a lot of looking and not a lot of finding.
Then Wednesday afternoon, while driving in for evening roost checks, Bev and I heard the beeps…..the beeps announcing the return of #4 accompanied by the silence where the beeps should have been for #11.
Arriving at the blind, we looked on as an obviously tired #4 busily readjusted to pen life with the help of #5 and #7, stopping periodically to aim a desperate stare far off at of piece of distance for something….perhaps #11, before finally falling back into the familiar rhythm of pen life and following his two flock mates out on to the oyster bar to roost for the night.
The next morning, I stood staring down at him through the visor of my costume helmet, searching for some clue that would explain his absence, describe his journey, and reveal the whereabouts and disposition of #11.
This effort was, of course, as useless as sending messages into outer space with a radio telescope and expecting an answer. But then there is that kazillion dollar radio telescope suspended across a valley in Aracebo, Puerto Rico operated by a whole gang of exceedingly intelligent people doing just that. Still, the mystery would remain mysterious….at least for now.
And so we will continue to continue, react to the new challenges, adjust our strategies, our expectations and as always…..listen for the beeps…while also trying to stay out of the way of that train.